Is Kobe Bryant talking Turkey while in Manila?
SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA—A team of locked-out NBA players led and coached by Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant balls around for fun at the Araneta Coliseum starting today.In what amounts to a couple of pickup games in a basketball-crazed country about 16 hours by jet from home, the Black Mamba and company will earn a boatload of cash while playing a PBA selection today and the Smart Gilas national basketball team tomorrow at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.
These players spell big bucks, prompting one of the games organizers to grope for words when asked about the cost of their exhibition games in Manila. “It’s between expensive and very expensive,” he said.
Because the NBA owners and the players are in a labor dispute, and finding ways to divide the billions of dollars in revenue that the league generates each season, the players have nothing to do with the NBA.
So what are they calling Kobe’s team for this weekend’s show?
The locked-out players’ Manila trip is fully backed by the NBA Players Association. Fisher, Kobe’s Lakers teammate, is the group’s president. His presence in Manila effectively adds muscle to the union’s position spelled out in a memo recently: “To help players who are taking steps to continue to earn a living, stay in peak competitive shape, and play the game we love.”
The labor strife is causing players to entertain thoughts of playing for teams in Europe, Asia and the Middle East where teams are more than willing to employ them.
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The Associated Press was reporting today that while Kobe was in the Philippines, he was talking Turkey—a stint with the Turkish team Besiktas, that is.
The AP said Besiktas was reportedly talking with Bryant’s agents about the possibility of the superstar playing for the team if the lockout drags on. The New York Daily News reports that Bryant’s asking price is more in the range of $1 million a month.
Besiktas coach Ergin Ataman told the AP the team would need a sponsor to cover a deal with Kobe and that “Our board will evaluate that.”
The same team has already snagged former Philadelphia Sixers Allen Iverson and has a deal in place with the highest-paid NBA point guard Derron Williams of the New Jersey Nets for about $350,000 a month.
Another current Manila visitor, Durant of the Oklahoma Thunder, Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire and Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic also have expressed plans about playing oversees.
Meanwhile, Williams’ Nets teammate Sasha Vujacic has inked a deal to play for another Turkish team. Players opting to play for overseas teams must obtain a contract clause allowing them to return to the NBA when the lockout ends.
But their biggest dilemma involves the risk of injury.
Player contracts are not insured by the league during the lockout, and if a player cannot get his contract insured, which in Williams’ case is $30 million over the next two seasons, he would be taking a huge risk by opting to play in a foreign market.
If a player without insurance sustains an injury playing basketball and misses time once the NBA lockout ends, he runs the risk of forfeiting money. Needless to say, NBA contracts are expensive to insure.
Which brings us back to the games this weekend.
To ensure a good, entertaining show at the Big Dome, would someone please confirm if insurance issues were part of the deal to bring the visitors over?
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